The Welcome Wagon
Daniel headed toward the front gates of the sprawling complex. Curiously enough, they had been left wide open, presumably because any military secrets worth plundering were long since gone. The other four followed Dan a half step behind, in a perfect crescent. Daniel pulled a flashlight from his backpack and scanned the base. Directly ahead of them was a large, hangerlike structure, with an enormous double door out front. Behind the main building were rows of barracks, and beyond them, guard towers. There was also, off in the shadows, the silhouette of a staircase leading underground.
"Are you guys sure about this?" Dan called over his shoulder. "Guys?" No answer. He spun around, only to find that his friends had vanished. The distant, echoing thunder served only to amplify the silence. A dull panic began to rise in Daniel's throat. His friends were gone. He was alone in a creepy military base, and his friends were gone. Maybe they had chickened out and gone home...but he didn't hear them leave. Maybe he had gotten turned around in the darkness, and they were ahead of him somewhere, already within the vast base.
"Guys?" he called again, this time louder. For a moment, there was no answer, but then a noise came from the hulking arch of the main building. The doors shrieked open, and there were his friends again, standing against the building's illuminated interior.
"Took you long enough," called Pammy. "We've been waiting for half an hour."
Dan rushed to the open doorway. In his relief, he wanted to throw his arms around his companions, but Pammy's irritation made him change his mind. "What do you mean," he said, "you guys were right behind me."
Pammy's face quickly changed from irritation to confusion. "No," she answered, "we weren't. You called me and told me to have everyone meet here at 8:30."
Gassan cut in, "We were waiting outside, but we went in here when we heard the thunder. We called you, like, 8 times."
Daniel checked his phone. It was on, had plenty of battery life, and the display showed no missed calls.
"Hey," he said, "when I called you, was I talking funny? Like...like a robot or something?"
"Oh, that's smooth," David jeered, "Blame your jerkiness on your secret robot clone."
"No," Pam interrupted, "You did sound funny."
"Because I thought I was just with you guys," Dan said, "and you were all talking weird. Pammy, were you at your house at all today?"
"Not since about noon. I've been shopping, why?"
"Because, I was at your house. And I thought you guys were all there too, but if--"
"None of us were at Pammy's," Jake said, "as soon as you--or your evil twin, or whatever--called her, she called us and said we were moving the party here. Which I was totally cool with, but now I think something weird is up."
"You don't suppose," Gassan began, but then stopped. "Nevermind, it's stupid."
"Well," said Pam, in an obvious attempt to salvage a ruined party, "as long as we're here, why don't we poke around a bit? C'mon inside, I'll show you what we found so far."
Daniel stepped into the building, and was momentarily dazzled by the lights inside. "Whoa," he muttered, "How'd you get the power back on?"
"We flipped the light switch," Pammy answered nonchalantly.
They were standing in a sort of vestibule, a cramped space that belied the enormity of the building itself. Ahead of them was a small, unmarked door. To their left was a rickety-looking spiral staircase. It came up from an unseen basement, and disappeared into the floor above. Directly below them was a red square, painted onto the room's concrete floor. Stencilled onto the square, in white block letters, was simply "PROJECT ZERO." The line moved straight ahead for a bit, then turned abruptly and vanished under another pair of double doors.
Written by Zodiac on 03 June 2008